North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble

GA State Representative William Boddie, Jr. Candidate for Labor Commissioner

February 16, 2022 Fannin Co. GA Democratic Party Season 2 Episode 6
North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble
GA State Representative William Boddie, Jr. Candidate for Labor Commissioner
Show Notes Transcript

The North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble podcast covers democratic politics in North GA, the 9th Congressional District, and across the state of Georgia. The podcast is in Q&A/Interview format with various democratic politicos including county chairs, democratic operatives, politicians, and more. It is our mission to deliver crucial information to our listeners in a timely manner as we fight for community values and principles in the 3rd most Conservative district in the state. Our website is: https://www.fcdpga.com/podcasts

Our guests highlight democratic activities and actions to work toward a Blue Georgia. The 9th Congressional District spans 20 counties across the region and covers a good deal of northern GA including Blue Ridge, Morganton, Fannin, Union, Banks, Athens/Clarke, Dawson, Elbert, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, and White counties. 

Our democratic party podcast also disseminates information and interviews powerful Democrats across the state of GA working to overthrow the suppression tactics of the GOP and ensure democracy and our values, grassroots efforts, and goals remain intact. 

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Meral Clarke:

Hello and welcome back to the North Georgia Blue Podcast produced and distributed by the Fannin County Democratic Party. I'm your host Meral Clarke and we're getting into some good trouble today with our special guest Georgia State Representative William Boddie running to be Georgia's next labor commissioner. Welcome to the show, Representative Boddie.

William Boddie:

Thank you so much.

Meral Clarke:

So we're so happy to have you here with us.

William Boddie:

No, Miss Clarke. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Meral Clarke:

Please feel free to call me Meral. Got it? Okay. Well, let's let our listeners know a little bit about you. Georgia State Representative William Boddie for House district 62 is a native of Atlanta and currently resides in East Point Georgia. He is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc and a lifelong member of Antioch Baptist Church North. Representative Bodie is a graduate of the Mercer University School of Law in Macon and has been practicing law since 2005. He was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2016, and was elected by the House Democratic Caucus colleagues to serve as minority whip in 2018. He serves on Budget and Fiscal Affairs, oversight judiciary, non civil, small business development and the special committee on access to the civil justice system committees. Representative Bodie has passed 22 bills Wow, in five years as a Democrat in the Georgia House of Representatives among those bills he co authored and was a lead co sponsor of House Bill 479, which is Georgia citizens arrest repeal legislation which I'd like to hear more about. House Bill 479 was created and passed into law in direct response to the Ahmaud Arbery murder in 2020 in Glynn County, Georgia. At least that jury got it right, correct. Absolutely. Yes. Can you tell us a little bit about House Bill 479 what that is and what it does?

William Boddie:

So basically, Georgia is the first state to pass a citizen's arrest repeal legislation or statute. This was passed into law last May. Basically what it does is it does not allow citizens to utilize or officiate arrest. The law is from 1863 when slave owners basically deputized private citizens on the owner corps, to arrest fugitive slaves, and to bring them back to the plantations here in the State of Georgia. And so this bill was originally passed in 1863, to do just that during the Civil War era. So we're really glad that the bill is no longer on the books. I'm very proud to say that Georgia is the first state in these United States of America to pass legislation precluding any private citizens from arresting another citizen, and trying to bring them in to custody. So very proud of that. In the Ahmaud Arbery case, I was very happy to see three guilty verdicts. One reason why I would say that came to pass was course the great case that the prosecution put forth, but also those three defendants were not able to use citizens arrest as a defense because it was passed into law that they could not use as a defense back in May of last year. 2020. So very happy to see that and I was very happy to see those three guilty verdicts right before Thanksgiving last year.

Meral Clarke:

As was I. Thank you so much for all your work on that your hard work and getting that done. So that segues into my next question. You've been quite successful in your brief career in the house with writing and passing critical legislation in the General Assembly. Why did you decide to run for Georgia labor commissioner and why do you believe that you're the best one for the job and can win?

William Boddie:

I would say the pandemic I'll be truthful with you during the pandemic when COVID-19 affected all of our lives back in March 2020. As a state legislator at that time I was minority House Democratic whip we will all sheltering in place. But we as legislators were on the phone on Zooms that's when we first found out about Zoom and I was getting phone calls from constituents from other citizens throughout the State of Georgia needing help because they were not getting any responses from the Georgia Department of Labor and so as the months kept going on and on and on. We are helping constituents, I helped over 93 constituents to get some type of response from the Department of Labor from all over the State of Georgia. I was like, I can do a much better job than the current labor commissioner, the Republican Commissioner Mark Butler, because I have empathy. I care about Georgians, and I care about Georgia workers, I care about workers needing to have that safety net that the unemployment insurance claims are supposed to provide. And I felt like I had the knowledge as a legislator, as an elected official, as a community advocate, that I can get out there and do a better job. And that's the reason why I will run for labor commissioner.

Meral Clarke:

Well, that's wonderful. The bar is set pretty low right now. I'm pleased that you're running and trying to make it better. So let's dive into your platform and discuss your support of the Georgians First initiative. Would you please explain what that is, and why it's so important.

William Boddie:

It's so important to me, because as the next Georgia labor commissioner, I'm going to put Georgia workers first. That's first in everything that we do, as a labor department that's first and making sure we have adequate customer service, that we're transparent, that we're assessable, and that we do the absolute best that we can to provide the services that Georgia workers need. And so I look to do that by three things. First, I want to make sure in the claim side that we have adequate staff. Right now, Georgia Department of Labor probably has about 1200 employees. Under the last labour Commissioner that was a Democrat, dear friend of mine, now CEO, Michael Thurmond, where he left office in 2010, he had over 4000 employees. He had over 80 career centers that serve as satellite offices throughout the state, for citizens to be able to utilize the services of Georgia Department of Labor. Now under Mark Butler, we only have 41. That is a shame. It is a shame because when you have a global pandemic, or you have an economic recession, or you have a natural disaster, we don't have as Georgia Department of Labor currently stands under this Republican administration. underv Mark Butler does not have the means to respond. When we had a Democrat in office, we had economic recession of 2008, because of the housing crash in the country, checks were still delivered on time for Georgia citizens that qualify for unemployment benefits. You cannot make an excuse that it is a pandemic, or is an economic recession, the train still has to run on time period. So I look to do that as next labor commissioner. I also want to upgrade the antiquated technology. When CEO Michael Thurmond got into office in the early 2000s, he took the Department of Labor from a pen and pad operation to a mainframe operation, which was high technology at that point in time. However, we all know technology changes. In the early 2000s, everyone had flip phones, and that was technology of the day. And now we all pretty much have a computer in our back pockets or in our purse. So we need to upgrade the technology. Because if we do have another economic recession, or if we do have another global pandemic, or if we have another spike in COVID-19, and we have to have a stimulus package coming down from Congress, and we have to be able to communicate with the US Department of Labor's computer system, we cannot afford to have individuals trying to manually change the code. Because we have a hybrid mainframe computer, we need to have a completely web based system that can communicate with Washington DC, to be able to get the funds into the bank accounts of Georgia workers who need it the most who lost a job through no fault of their own because of a pandemic economic recession or another reason. So I want to make sure that we're being proactive on that. And it starts by utilizing the resources that we have as a department labor, federal resources and also state resources. And also just having a Labor Commissioner that has the empathy that cares about seeing Georgia workers prevail and see when they're going through a moment in time where they need Department of Labor the most. My dad and this is a quick story. My dad when I was in elementary school used to work at Z warehouse as there was a retail outlet that was very popular back in the 80s. In the 70s. However, it was bought out by Marshalls which you all know Marshalls Corporation own TJ Maxx Marshalls stores in the whole night. And so my dad lost his job working at distribution center. And so for four to five weeks, my dad had to apply for unemployment benefits and certify every Sunday evening. And those unemployment benefits that he got maintain my family household. And so my dad was able to get up and get a new job he worked at towards Rus distribution center until he passed away in 2012. But imagine if this labor commissioner, Republican Mark Butler, was the commissioner at that point in time, and my dad could not get his unemployment benefits in a timely manner. My family would lost everything.

Meral Clarke:

That's terrible. And I'm sure there are so many people out there who have the same story or similar stories. So let's dive into that a little bit deeper. Another of your priorities, as you just stated, is timely processing or the current lack thereof for unemployment applications and payments to include accessibility and customer service. Why is the current Republican in the position not rectifying this issue as millions of Georgians suffer? Why are they not upgrading their computer systems? Why aren't they ensuring that folks are getting their unemployment benefits in a timely fashion? Why is this happening?

William Boddie:

First of all, I would say that's a great question. Now I will say the rank and file and the employees at the Georgia Department of Labor work very hard. And they are doing all they can with the resources that they have. But however, the head of the Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is not doing his job. And so you asked a great question. I don't know what I would say the reason I think it's not being done because Mark Butler doesn't have the empathy to want to get it done. We had appropriation hearings last week. And right now, it's a lawsuit that's been filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And one of those claims is that the Georgia Department of Labor has failed to timely hear over 20,000 appeals, and those appeals are over a year old. Normally, those appeals should have been heard within a month. And so this Labor Commission just does not care. That's the only thing I can think of the only thing I can want to find my brain why? Because anybody else, any other elected officials that I know, Democrat, Republican independent, will be like, What do I need to do? Now, last week, he had the opportunity to come before the Georgia House, Joint Committee on Appropriations House and Senate to ask for more money for more staff. And what he did is said, Oh, I can't show up because I'm sick, or he had a family emergency, which things happen when he failed to say his deputy commissioner to ask for the funding. And that outraged not only Democrats, but Republicans. Everyone felt like wow, you're just gonna blow this off while we have a situation where this Georgia Department of Labor is under fire, have multiple lawsuits, and you're not even going to come ask for more money to hire more staff to make sure these claims are processed in a timely manner. You're not going to come ask for more money so you can actually empower people and hire a call center staff to be able to field these calls as they come in. Right now, the Georgia Department labor has one phone, one telephone line, and the voicemail box is always full, you cannot get a human being on the phone with Department of Labor. So as next Labor Commissioner, I will make sure we have a call center so we can triage any problem any citizen in this day has with the unemployment system or if they have questions about workforce opportunities. And we will have staff to triage your issue if you call in to find out what's the status of my unemployment claim. Okay, we can get you to that department. What is the status of my appeal? We can get you to that department. Or what are opportunities out there for me in North Georgia if I'm in Lumpkin County, where are the available jobs here in Lumpkin County or in Fannin County? Who can I talk to? We're going to get them to the right department. Any major operational corporation has a call center. We have 10.6 million people in Georgia and one telephone line and one telephone one voice mailbox for Georgia Department like what you're saying

Meral Clarke:

That is crazy to hear. And I'm glad you brought up empathy as well, because empathy is such an important component in our elected officials who are charged with ensuring their constituents get what they need. I believe empathy should be taught K through 12. That's just me empathy and kindness, because it's certainly in short supply these days. So thank you for that. Let's talk about educational and workforce opportunities. And you touched on this earlier, your desire to create more career and job centers. Our current Labor Department, as you pointed out, is woefully lacking in this area. What are your plans to help Georgians find jobs and why is education such a crucial component?

William Boddie:

Education is very important. But I will also say that the type of education is the choice of the individual. And so if we have a high school student, and I'll get into the various levels I foresee, but this example I want to give, we have a high school student in South Georgia, I want to buy us a stay in Lowndes County and say, Look, I know I don't want to go to college, but I want to get a vocation. Right now, you can do that in 10th grade. And we want to make sure that that high school student, if Lowndes County Board of Education does not have a career academy like we do here in South Fulton, and APS. Most schools or school systems are connected with the technical college within their county. So we want to make sure that student is already on track, to get the vocation or to get the trade in high school. So when they get out of high school, they decide to go to a technical college, or they say, look, I do want to go to college, they can, or if they want to go right into the workforce, they can. So we need to look at education holistically. And say that, okay, it's not a one stop shop is not one size fit all. And so we want to make sure that we are looking at the individual listening to the individual and say, what are your needs? And how can we help you achieve those needs, so you can have a livable wage, paying job and quality of life. So I want to do that by first of all partner with the labor US labor unions, organized labor have amazing apprenticeship programs. IBEW has an amazing apprenticeship program, the building trades have an amazing apprenticeship program. And the reason why these programs are so good is that a student or a Georgia worker that wants to be retrained, and another occupation or trade can do that. And you can get into a trade. And you can not amass the student loan debt. At the five years, you can say, Look, I have now became a journeyman. I have the white and I have my labor court, I have my certifications. And I'm making $75,000 as a IBEW journeyman that's in five years, and then another three years, you can get more certification become a format, and now you're making over $100,000 a year, and you don't have the student loan debt. You have collective bargaining agreement, which has your health care, your pension, everything that you need. And so I went to law school. So when I got a law school course asked to own that, and my first job, I was making $53,000 a year as a assistant public defender. But you can make almost double close to it by going into a trade if you so choose to. I love being a lawyer. But it's other avenues to making a livable wage. And I want to make sure we amplify that as the Georgia Department of Labor and giving citizens and workers in the state an opportunity and a choice to go into a trade occupation that they want.

Meral Clarke:

Well, you know, 100 years ago, and not in this state, actually in New York, but 100 years ago, when I was in high school, we used to have Votech, vocational tech, yes. Which you had to go through your junior and senior years, and it was extremely helpful, especially in upstate, so do they not have that in the high schools any longer? Yes, they do. They do. Okay.

William Boddie:

And you're right. When I was in high school, it was vocational school. And what happened is, either you weren't doing the morning schedule for half a day to the vocational school and, you know, as carpentry, it was automotives there was construction. So you either went in the morning time, or you went in an afternoon, and a lot of the students at my high school benek high school would catch the bus right around the corner to the south phone Vocational Center. They don't call them in metro areas, vocational centers, they call them career academies now, so you can go and now train for all the things that you train for and vocational. But now it's film, HVAC. Some even have aviation mechanics. I mean, it's so much that you can learn at this level. And so these programs are there, if the Career Academy doesn't have it, like with aviation, and the 18 wheeler mechanics, if they can't get at the Career Academy, they can get at a technical school that's associated and in partnership with the Career Academy. So a lot of counties have the career academies themselves. But a lot of counties outside of the metro area actually partner with the technical college within their county. I know Douglas County Board of Education does not have a career academy or career center. But they do have a partnership with West Georgia Technical College, where students are bused to the campus in Douglasville to get the vocational training that they're seeking. And they also get high school credit for it as well.

Meral Clarke:

Right, which is the way it's always been, but not all the high schools offer that correct. And you would want to make that statewide?

William Boddie:

Yes, I would like to encourage if you don't have and I know it comes down to local boards and funding issues. If you don't have your own career academy that you do have a robust partnership with the local technical college within your county. Now I've spoke to some my endorsers throughout the state and I'm very proud to say I have over 150 endorsement from elected officials Congratulations. Impressive Yes, thank you from rural Georgia, suburban urban and coastal Georgia that endorsed my candidacy. But I have been told that a lot of counties do have technical colleges or have a campus within that college, but they may not have all the programs that a lot of my elected officials for his field like the technical college to have. So I think by me being the next Georgia labor commissioner, we can actually partner with the technical colleges and get with the local stakeholders within that community say, look, what are your needs? And does the technical college in your county meet that need? If not, we can talk with the Technical College System of Georgia say, look, how can we better serve this particular community that's looking for this particular trait of vocation? And that's the great thing about Georgia Department Labor Commission. The commissioner can be the glue to all

Meral Clarke:

But the current commissioner is not clearly

William Boddie:

Not so not to give you an answer.

Meral Clarke:

Another reason we need a Democrat in that position along with all Georgia state government. So since your episode will be airing during Black History Month, let's turn our attention to what Black History Month means to you, and how has it impacted your political career and your background of service?

William Boddie:

That's just that's probably one of the best questions I had all year.

Meral Clarke:

Of course, the year is still young, but thank

William Boddie:

Yes, it's still young, but you leading right now you. you're leading you're leading, I would say is meant a lot to me. I was born here in Atlanta, Georgia, at Grady Memorial Hospital, and I was raised in Atlanta in I studied in college at Valdosta State went to Mercer Law and Middle Georgia. So I'm a Georgia boy thinking through but growing up in Atlanta and going to a lot of public schools and then going to Fulton County Schools. I was taught the importance of Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. I remember in kindergarten Do you remember all reel to reels and looking at the black and white movies? You know, I remember that too. Yes. It was just amazing. Every year during Black History Month going to the MLK center, going to the O Ebenezer and just seeing it and feeling it in sitting in the sanctuary of the O Ebenezer church here in Dr. King's sermon. It places a calling on your life to serve. My grandmother recently passed away last year. Last January.

Meral Clarke:

I'm so sorry.

William Boddie:

Thank you. I appreciate that. She was a part of her women ministry at my church Antioch Baptist Church? No. Almost until she passed away. She was the president of her women's ministry and I never forget her her funeral. The founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank was at my grandmother's funeral because he said your grandmother used to come out with the mission every Thursday to feed the homeless and it gives a calling on your life. My grandfather World War II veteran life member before he passed, the Veterans of Foreign Wars used to take me to the Veterans Hospital in Decatur, Georgia, and I would go to the Veterans Hospital with him. And I would volunteer because he would be there with the soldiers in the cellars. And, you know, I would be the Bingo boy helping out with the bingo games. And I used to do that when, like 6,7,8 grade when I was in middle school, and he made me see service. And so growing up in Atlanta, and growing up in Georgia, you are immersed, in the history of the civil rights movement. And from that civil rights movement, your family members have been involved in the movement, your grandparents, your great grandparents. And so it instills in you giving back and giving of yourself to help others as Martin Luther King say, you don't have to be this grand leader to serve. Anyone can serve. And so I've always took that at every level as a calling on my life and as a charge on my life to serve, no matter what capacity that I'm in, and also named clues mentor. And as well, you can give back and serve as a mentor to a mentee that wants to achieve things in life that they may not already be able to see. I mean, I'm a lawyer now because I stand on the shoulders of my parents, my grandparents, and people that saw me that look, you can be a lawyer, and not only be a lawyer, be a great lawyer. And then when I decided to go out into the political arena, you could be elected official, you'd be a great elected official, and now going into this elevated position that I'm trying to see. People still say look, we need just X labor commissioner, cuz they individually have in office now she's not doing the job, we need you. And so this I feel like is the new calling on my life to serve in that capacity.

Meral Clarke:

Well, that's wonderful. I wish that more people had that calling as well. But we're lucky to have you in our legislature and moving forward in your political career as well. So Representative Bodie, if someone wants to volunteer with your campaign, donate or just learn more about you and your candidacy, where would you send them

William Boddie:

I will send it to my website WWW dot Bodi B as in boy Oh, as an Oscar D is in dog D as in dog, ie, for FOR ga.com. So BODDIE for ga.com. And you can also go to my social media handles, which is saying at BODDIE for GA, or hashtag BODDIE for GA, and also info at Boddie for ga.com, as well to email me directly, but my website actually has a page on my website or a tab that says volunteers. So let you know the volunteer opportunities. But also you can fill out a digital form to actually sign up to help my campaign in various capacities, which we need help in all capacity with voter outreach constituent outreach right now when General Assembly is in session. So I can't fundraise until we Sine Die on April the fourth, but, but you can also contribute in other ways meet and greets. So there's a number of ways and so if you go to the in the volunteer page on my website, you can find out more opportunities to be able to help my campaign move around the State of Georgia.

Meral Clarke:

Terrific. And I want to compliment you on your campaign staff as well. They have been a joy to work with and Vonda. She's amazing. She really is. She really is.

William Boddie:

Thank you. And look, this has just been a great week of just connecting with North Georgia Democrats. I was on a Zoom meeting last night with the Lumpkin County Democrats and they're fired up in North Central Georgia and I've been up to your neck of the woods love it up there was a Union County then Blairsville. I mean I really love North Georgia, the air so crisp, the mountains are beautiful. And I just love it. So I look forward to coming up to Fannin County in person to my campaign.

Meral Clarke:

We'd love to have you we would love to host you Yes, yes sir.

William Boddie:

I would love to be there. It is too easy like I told the Lumpkin County Democrats and the Union County Democrats. It's too easy to sell me to come to North Georgia because you guys have a lot of wonderful attributes and a lot of great things going on in North Georgia. So I look forward to coming to Fannin County.

Meral Clarke:

Well, thank you. We look forward to your next visit as well. And finally and I ask all my guests this question Tell us a fun fact about yourself something not related to your necessarily your legal career, or your political career. Something just Just about you that our listeners may be interested in hearing about.

William Boddie:

What you got me. Oh, I mean, a fun fact,

Meral Clarke:

We learn so much about our people that way.

William Boddie:

I love to listen to jazz music. I love Jazz, Jazz music. And fun fact is that Sundays are my one day that I block out during the football season from football, but also to listen to jazz music. Like I'm a huge John Coltrane fan and Miles Davis. And so my wife, she probably has heard Love Supreme, so many times. So we're traveling across the state on Sundays. She's knows she's gotta listen to jazz music. I love jazz. I mean, I love it. Love it. Love it. So I'm glad to know you as lover too.

Meral Clarke:

Yes, the loneliest monk and I could go on and on with with all the jazz greats.

William Boddie:

Oh my god, you know your jazz music?

Meral Clarke:

I do. I do. I love jazz too. So we share that in common. Well, thank you, Representative Boddie, for joining us today and sharing more about your critical work to support Democratic Party policy and maintain our democracy. I'm Meral Clarke and on behalf of our team, I'd like to thank everyone for listening to the North Georgia Blue Podcast to learn more about us and the work that we're doing, visit us online at Fannin County, Georgia Democrats.com Share the North Georgia Blue Podcast with your friends and family be sure to subscribe and follow and if you enjoy our podcasts become a founding patron and friend of the show at NorthGeorgiaBluePodcast.com/patron so we can continue getting into more good trouble.